By Anica Boulanger-Mashberg
Alison Mann’s first full-length play, She’s Not Performing, weaves a handful of lives around its central issue: the long-term impacts and aftermaths of forced adoption. The play broils with the anger and loss which is a daily part of life for Margarite (Sara Pensalfini), decades after giving up her daughter for adoption. Her unresolved pain ricochets and reverberates violently into her relationships with both her current boyfriend Ian (Campbell McKenzie), and also Hamish (Joe Clements), a connection from her past. Bryony Geeves completes the quartet as Annie, a young stripper Margarite becomes preoccupied with (thinking perhaps Annie could be her daughter).
|Image courtesy Theatre Royal website|
Director Belinda Bradley has handled some of the most sensitive scenes gently, allowing the story to bleed from its characters at just the right pace, and integrating a sometimes addictively claustrophobic and suitably nightmarish soundscape by Matt Warren. In other places, however, the actors don’t yet seem to feel comfortable in their roles, and a certain hesitance and lack of connection to the text occasionally forms a barrier to audience empathy. The minimalist design and moody yet unpretentious lighting serve effectively as each of the different settings, but also leave the actors quite naked (sometimes literally) in the moments where they are not yet at ease.
The production is at its strongest during the scenes that depart from reality in one way or other: in dreams, memories, flashbacks, fantasies. During these sections the cast seem more willing to take risks, the dialogue – perhaps ironically – sounds more real, and all the production elements come together powerfully.
The season should bring more cohesion to the relationships and allow the actors to fully embody their roles, as well as develop the moments of humour in the script which cautiously poked their way through the fury in this opening-night performance.
She’s Not Performing is presented by Tasmanian Theatre Company and will continue at the Theatre Royal Backspace until November 29, 2013.